UK ministers condemn protest against Israeli ambassador

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LONDON (Reuters) - British ministers on Wednesday condemned what they described as the intimidation of the Israeli ambassador in London by pro-Palestinian protesters who booed and shouted at her as she left a university after a debate with students.

Interior minister Priti Patel said she was disgusted by the treatment of Tzipi Hotovely late on Tuesday after an event organised by a student debating society at the London School of Economics.

"Antisemitism has no place in our universities or our country," Patel wrote on Twitter. "The police have my full backing in investigating this appalling incident."

Hotovely said the debate itself had been "excellent" and she would not be intimidated.

"I will continue to share the Israeli story and hold open dialogue with all parts of British society," she tweeted.

Reports in several British media said a large crowd had gathered outside the building during the debate.

Video footage showed Hotovely emerging and being swiftly bundled into her car while security men jostled with protesters trying to rush towards it. Jeering, booing and cries of "aren't you ashamed?" could be heard.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Middle East minister James Cleverly also condemned the incident which they described as threatening, aggressive and an unacceptable attempt to silence Hotovely.

"This is deeply disturbing. I am so sorry Ambassador Hotovely," Zahawi wrote on Twitter, adding that Jewish students at the LSE would have been "deeply shaken".

There had been calls by pro-Palestinian activists before the debate for Hotovely's invitation to speak at the event to be cancelled.

The debating society is due to host Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain, on Thursday.

British media reported that the protesters specifically targeted Hotovely, who was appointed by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and has expressed views against Palestinian statehood and in favour of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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